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Health care practitioners can be a resource for referral to practitioners of acupuncture, as more are becoming aware of this CAM therapy. More medical doctors, including neurologists, anesthesiologists, and specialists in physical medicine, are becoming trained in acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, and other CAM therapies. In addition, national organizations (consult your local library or search with a Web browser) may provide referrals to practitioners, although some organizations may encourage the use of their practices. Check a practitioner's credentials. A practitioner who is licensed and credentialed may provide better care than one who is not. About 40 States have established training standards for acupuncture certification, but States have varied requirements for obtaining a license to practice acupuncture.34 Although proper credentials do not ensure competency, they do indicate that the practitioner has met certain standards to treat patients through the use of acupuncture.

Check treatment cost and insurance coverage. A practitioner should inform you about the estimated number of treatments needed and how much each will cost. If this information is not provided, ask for it. Treatment may take place over a few days or for several weeks or more. Physician acupuncturists may charge more than nonphysician practitioners. Check with your insurer before you start treatment as to whether acupuncture will be covered for your condition, and if so, to what extent. Some plans require preauthorization for acupuncture.

Check treatment procedures. Ask about the treatment procedures that will be used and their likelihood of success for your condition or disease. You also should make certain that the practitioner uses a new set of disposable needles in a sealed package every time. The FDA requires the use of sterile, nontoxic needles that bear a labeling statement restricting their use to qualified practitioners. The practitioner also should swab the puncture site with alcohol or another disinfectant before inserting the needle.

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